NCAA Tourney Opens With Two Games

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Published on March 20 2013 10:54 am
Last Updated on March 20 2013 11:06 am
Written by Millie Lange

North Carolina A&T 73, Liberty 72

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) After more than 30 years of trying, North Carolina A&T finally has an NCAA win.

To do it, the Aggies had to survive one last, harrowing, close call.

Substitute guard Jeremy Underwood tripled his average with 19 points, leading the Aggies (20-16) past resilient Liberty 73-72 on Tuesday at the First Four to win their first NCAA tournament game after nine losses.

The victory advanced the Aggies to a showdown with top-seeded Louisville (29-5) in Lexington, Ky., Thursday.

``It's been a long time,'' first-year Aggies coach Cy Alexander said.

It could have been pushed back even longer. The Flames (15-21) - only the second team ever to make the NCAA tournament with 20 losses - had a chance to win it in the final seconds.

John Caleb Sanders drove coast to coast and flipped up a left-handed layup in heavy congestion that just glanced off the glass.

``I knew he was going to go to the rim, and I just wanted to play off of him,'' A&T defensive star Austin Witter said. ``I just tried to keep my hands back, and use my length to alter the shot. I believe I got a little piece of it, but I'm not really sure.

``I think I did just enough to get it off.''

Sanders was trying to draw a foul as much as make the frantic shot.

``We've had a lot of late-game situations similar to that, and Coach (Dale Layer) has always said to take it to the rim,'' Sanders said. ``They took away my right hand, so I went left and tried to get to the basket, and it just didn't fall for me.''

Saint Mary's 67, Middle Tennessee 54

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) Matthew Dellavedova scored 22 points on Tuesday night, and Saint Mary's got a good start on its second straight NCAA tournament appearance, beating Middle Tennessee 67-54 in the First Four.

The Gaels (28-6) make a quick trip to Auburn Hills, Mich., to play sixth-seeded Memphis on Thursday.

Saint Mary's is making back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances for the first time in its history. The Gaels reached the round of 16 in 2010 before losing to Baylor. Not so good last year, when they dropped their opening game to Purdue 72-69.

With four starters back and Dellavedova, the school's career scoring leader, handling the ball and making the biggest shots, the Gaels were too much for Middle Tennessee (28-6), which was making its first NCAA tournament appearance in 24 years.

Credit Dellavedova for making a difference, as he has all season. The point guard went 7 of 14 from the field, including 5 of 7 behind the arc, and had four assists and six rebounds.

Tweety Knight led Middle Tennessee with 16 points. The Blue Raiders went only 4 of 12 from behind the arc, hitting one fewer 3-pointer than Dellavedova.

With those four starters back, Saint Mary's is looking for one of its best finishes yet. The Gaels did pretty much what they wanted all season long, except for one thing: Beating rival Gonzaga. Saint Mary's lost only three times in its last 22 games, all three times to the Bulldogs.

Fortunately for the Gaels, they put a lot of space between themselves and the Zags this week. No. 1 Gonzaga snagged the top seed in the West Regional and is playing in Salt Lake City. The Gaels get to stay in the Midwest for a while.

Middle Tennessee counted it a breakthrough just to be playing in the First Four - the Blue Raiders hadn't been there since 1989.

Tuesday, March 19 Scores

NCAA Tournament First Four (at Dayton, OH)

#16 North Carolina A&T Aggies 73, #16 Liberty Flames 72

#11 Saint Mary's Gaels 67, #11 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 54

Wednesday, March 20 Schedule

NCAA Tournament First Four (at Dayton, OH)

5:40 p.m. - #16 LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds vs. #16 James Madison Dukes

8:10 p.m. - #13 La Salle Explorers vs. #13 Boise State Broncos